Conversations with God (2006)



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Review #289 of 365
Film: Conversations With God (2006) [PG] 109 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $11.00
Where Viewed: United Artists Colorado Center 9 & IMAX, Denver, CO
When 1st Seen: 27 October 2006
Time: 10:15 p.m.
Film's Official Website
DVD Release Date: unscheduled

Directed by: Stephen Simon (Indigo)
Written by: Eric DelaBarre (The Big Easy) based on the books by Neale Donald Walsch

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Henry Czerny (The Pink Panther) • T. Bruce Page (Mystic River) • Abdul Salaam El Razzac (8 Mile)

Download Related Music: Liz Story - Conversations With God - A Windham Hill Collection


Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word or less review of this film]
Planning to take on Conversations with God and making it into a motion picture was ambitious. On the one hand, you have the story of Neale Donald Walsch as he goes from a neck-breaking car wreck, loss of his job, divorce, through a long period of homelessness, to published author millionaire, and on the other you have a story about a guy who writes some tough questions to God and He answers, or so Walsch believes. How does one make a film of a life which sounds as unbelievable and contrived as that? How does one make a film about a man who could be labeled a crack pot for thinking he's having conversations with God without making a mockery of him or having others label him a crack pot? Despite the fact that the books have won critical acclaim and changed the lives of millions of people, a film version faces very different challenges than a book. According to press notes, the film is as true to Mr. Walsch's real life experience as possible. A decision was made to keep the personal lives of his former wives and children out of the film to protect their privacy. This is supposed to be just his story.

"…read the book…"

So, the film begins, with a look into one of the now-published author, Neale Walsch's motivational sessions. He answers some questions, gives up some of his philosophy of life, and endures a bit of heckling from a gentleman with an ax to grind. The question, nonetheless causes Walsh to reflect back on his life which then serves as the segue back to the beginning of the story. Reaching a point in his life where half a sandwich in a dumpster was a treasure, the movie and the story are as much about how well-educated and experienced people can become homeless as it is about anything Walsch writing and publishing his book. Most people presume that homeless people are homeless by choice. They must be lazy. They must be stupid. They must be drunks or drug addicts. They must be nefarious types who couldn't make it in the real world. Obviously, there are homeless people who might fit any of these characterizations. Nonetheless, that does not mean it holds for all, most, or even many homeless people. Moreover, the little help a person might give a homeless person could be the help that turns his or her life around making it possible for him or her to go on to become self-sufficient again or even, as was the case with Walsch, a best-selling author—though the latter might be less likely. During his time living amongst the homeless and getting a taste for what it is like, Walsch learns a lot about himself and the other homeless people. These are lessons from which everyone can learn a thing to two. It is unclear, however, after he gets a job for a brief time as a weekend dj at a station that goes bankrupt just after he gets an apartment and bids his homeless friends adieu, how he supports himself and the apartment while he writes his book. Also, unanswered by the film, are the meaning behind the flashbacks within flashbacks he has about a little boy and a woman—is this him and his mother? These flashbacks seem, at times, mildly irrelevant. Which, surprisingly, is a sense that comes up more than once in the film. Should there be anything in the film that is irrelevant? Probably not, so then there must be hidden relevance behind certain events. There is an entire relationship between Neale and a woman whom he meets on a bus to town. She is vivacious, ebullient, gregarious, and supportive. Over time, he feels he has developed a connection with her that might mean more. It a particularly brutal scene, she spanks him down, calls him too old, and says a final 'goodbye' driving another nail into the coffin containing what little self-worth he has left. The overall impact of this woman on his life, however, doesn't seem as relevant as others, yet she gets more time in the story. Another sizeable hole in the film is an explanation as to whether Neale Walsch really believes that God spoke to him, through him, etc. or if he believes that consciousness of God is alive in us all speaking to us at all times, and this is what he wrote down. This is an important detail, that probably should have been cleared up in the film. Is he a prophet or is he a guy with a cool idea that that voice in the back of everyone's mind is God talking to each of us and we could each write our own books? Which ever the case, it doesn't change the message his books deliver about how to really live life. The film, unfortunately, does not deliver this message as well as the books primarily because it gets bogged down in telling this story of Neale's own life—which isn't a bad story, it's just not the power behind the books. Seeing the movie, in other words, will not have the same life motivational power as reading the book, unless maybe you are a homeless person who desires a role model.


Henry Czerny as Neale, wandering, homeless, and alone, looking for a place to sleep in the pouring, cold rain.

Publicity notes indicate that director Stephen Simon and Neale Walsch were both thrilled with the casting of award-winning, Canadian actor Henry Czerny as Neale. On the one hand, never having seen Neale Walsch before, and not recognizing Henry Czerny from, for example, his recent role in the remake of The Pink Panther, I presumed he was Neale Walsch playing himself. So, congrats to Henry Czerny for pulling that off. Meanwhile, something about him just didn't seem quite right. When I discovered during the credits this was not the real Walsch, I wondered if that was it—he really isn't Walsch, he's Czerny, no wonder he didn't seem quite right. Which then set me back again to think about this casting choice. While I guess there is some physical resemblance between the two, there is an edge to Czerny, a harshness, that just doesn't quite fit this character. Plainly, he has the look of a movie villain. There's not a touch of real compassion in his expressions or his face. Even when he has a moment of unexplained revelation, where he eases the suffering of a mother who's come to interrupt a book-signing with a story about how cruel God was to take her son's life on his 18th birthday, even during this highly emotional scene, where he sheds a tear, he still looks hardened and weary, cantankerous and distant, emotionless and cold. He is not the actor Frank Capra would have cast to play George Bailey, in other words. A less icy, cold stare, some humility, etc. would have gone a long way in helping to make Henry Czerny's portrayal of Neale Walsch more believable.

This has been a big year for spiritual-based films: The Celestine Prophecy, Facing the Giants, Peaceful Warrior, Love's Abiding Joy, and now Conversations with God. All five films have some problems, some of which may be attributed simply to small-scale budgets. Still, Peaceful Warrior holds on to the top spot as the best of this class. I don't say this often, as I am, by the way, a huge, huge movie fan, but this is a case where I'm going to have to say, read the book instead.

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Related Products from Amazon.com
Other Projects Featuring Conversations With God (2006)
Cast Members
Henry CzernyT. Bruce PageAbdul Salaam El Razzac
Director
Stephen Simon
Writer
Eric DelaBarre
Author of Book
Neale Donald Walsch
The Book
Related CD
Related Book


Conversations with God (2006) Review-lite [150-word cap]
Planning to make Conversations with God into a movie was ambitious. On the one hand, you have Neale Donald Walsch as he goes from a neck-breaking car wreck, joblessness, divorce, through a long period of homelessness, to published author millionaire, and on the other you have a story about a guy who writes some tough questions to God and He answers, or so Walsch believes. Using sequences of flashbacks, the film tells the true-life story of the author whose book has touched so many lives worldwide. Walsch is portrayed by Henry Czerny who comes across as icy more than prophetic. 2006 has been huge for spiritual-based films: The Celestine Prophecy, Facing the Giants, Peaceful Warrior, Love's Abiding Joy, and now Conversations with God. Peaceful Warrior holds on to the top spot as the best of this class. As for Conversations with God, read the book instead.

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1 comment:

patrick said...

i watched the movie version of Conversations with God recently... i appreciate the point that Neale Donald Walsch makes about having freedom to admit that he's not perfect so he can move on from where he is at that point.